What a whirlwind! Over the last few weeks, I had the great opportunity to work with Georgia Organics as a Dietetic Intern. Going into this, my only thought was: “I’ll get to work on a farm!” And while I did do just that (and we’ll get into it later), I also got to experience so much more in an area I didn’t think I would really step foot in: farm to early care and education (FTECE).
It started with an incredibly interesting workshop put on by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Strong 4 Life and Emory University called Early Feeding in Early Care Summit. I listened to experts in the field of infant and toddler feeding, discussed ways in which we can improve feeding and dietary patterns for children, and met those involved with child care from parents to health care and education providers – it really does take a village. Mothers in a parent panel even shared some of the great steps their childcare facilities had taken to improve nutrition for their children like having gardens in the school and even texting parents about what new food their children were learning to eat.
Then came the chaotic goodness that is working with kids; and I have to say, I enjoyed every moment of it (tiring though it may be).
My first stop was at Little Ones Learning Center with Abby, another dietetic intern from Emory University Hospital. Little Ones has a great FTECE program with a beautiful garden located in the heart of their school. If you’re not familiar with the terms, FTECE and farm to school brings fresh produce from a local farm or school garden to kids to teach them where food comes from. It even involves kids learning how to garden and grow their own foods, cook healthy meals, and explore curriculum standards through hands on food-based activities.
Germaine, the school garden’s caretaker and a professional chef herself, gave us a tour of the different fruits and vegetables they grow for the children and even put us to work. Some of the produce that’s harvested is even sold at the farmer’s market that the school hosts twice a month for the children’s families – it’s their way of making sure everyone has access to fresh, quality foods.
Abby and I each lead a small class of students on some fun food activities. While my own blind-fold taste test didn’t go quite as I had planned, Abby’s kale juice was a hit! It was so good, some of the children (and even the teacher) came back for seconds. Unfortunately, that meant we forgot to leave some for our gracious host, Ms. Wande. Oops!
Our next stop was at East Side Elementary School. We worked with Cobb County Food and Nutrition Services to introduce kale and all its glory in a one-hour presentation to 200 first graders! With a stage, some music, and a microphone, we were like veggie rock stars. Students got to watch one of their teachers peddle a bicycle-powered blender, cheer on their teachers during a trivia contest I hosted and learned how to make a delicious kale salad with Abby. Our visit here was a short one, though, because Abby and I had to make our way to Hungry Heart Farm in south Atlanta.
If you’ve never worked in farming, I’ll tell you now: it’s not easy. I only spent about five hours working to clear out a high tunnel of old tomato plants, hoeing fields of carrots and beets, planting seeds, and harvesting basil, but I now know that it’s not for me. While I enjoyed the experience immensely, did my best to work hard and keep myself busy, it made me realize that I don’t have what it takes to be a good farmer – just a patio gardener at best. But that’s okay because we have people like Farmers Matthew Bagshaw and Christi Hansen who work hard to bring good, sustainable food to the world.
The last stop I made for Georgia Organics was at Kids R Kids Learning Academy where I lead two classes in a taste test with our Super Power (Kale) Pesto. And not to brag, but it was pretty darn successful. The four-year olds learned about the health benefits of kale, how to follow a recipe, tasted the pesto and even asked for seconds! By the end of it all, I lost my voice – but it was worth it.
I’m proud of the work I did as a Georgia Organics Dietetic Intern. This experience has taught me the importance of starting good dietary patterns early in life, that we should make sure all children have access to fresh, quality foods, and that, despite what many people think, kids will eat something new even if it’s green and gooey.